5 Engaging Ways to Teach Animal Genetics

Job Brisby Eloja

Genetics is the study of how traits are passed on from parent organisms to their offspring. It has important applications in different fields, including medicine, conservation biology, ecology, biotechnology, and agriculture. Animal genetics is a basic concept that must be taught in any biology class. 

Genetics concepts tend to be complex, especially for students new to the topic. It can be challenging to teach. Thankfully, there are many ways to make this topic more engaging to students. 

1. Engage Students with Interactive Animal Genetics Models

A huge part of genetics is the passing on of traits from parents to offspring. This is called inheritance, and it has predictable patterns based on Mendelian genetics. There are three Mendelian laws of inheritance:

  • Law of Dominance
  • Law of Segregation
  • Law of Independent Assortment

Aside from these laws, there are other mechanisms of inheritance such as:

  • Codominance
  • Multiple Alleles
  • Incomplete Dominance
  • Pleiotropy
  • Epistasis

These concepts, when discussed together, can become confusing for students. The number of things they need to learn can itself be overwhelming. 

Students can learn these concepts more easily with interactive models. These models allow them to see these genetic mechanisms in action. They can also play around with the models until they master each concept.

Animal genetics virtual lab showing cows and farmer.

Educators can use interactive models like Labster’s Animal Genetics Virtual Lab to teach this topic in a more appealing way.

2. Make Animal Genetics Fun with Games and Activities

Learning scientific topics should not be confined to a lecture hall. Games and exciting activities can be integrated into genetics lessons to make them more fun. 

Teachers may ask students to role-play Gregor Mendel and other known geneticists. These activities will let students get a glimpse of what the early scientists of genetics did. 

Games that integrate concepts of genetics can also be explored in class. There are games that are purely educational, and these work best to introduce complex topics to students in more interesting ways.

Simulations work well, too, adding an element of near-realism to teaching. Simulations can let students experience working in a lab without the dangers of an actual lab. They can explore, make mistakes, and still stay safe while having fun and learning.

3. Infuse Technology into Lessons

Technologies used in teaching have gone a long way from plain textbooks and illustrations. Now, instructors can use video, audio, animations, or a combination of these media. Moving images make it easier for students to grasp topics like animal genetics.

Simulations are even better. They can get a feel of what it is to work in a lab, and they can see up close how genetics experiments work. Simulations like the Animal Genetics Virtual Lab from Labster are great teaching tools.

Virtual lab showing the pedigree chart.
Discover the Animal Genetics Virtual Lab today!

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

Students can appreciate lessons a lot more if they can see how they are applicable to their future. Making them aware of possible career paths is a great way to make them more interested in animal genetics.

Possible career paths that study animal genetics include:

  • Medical doctor
  • Clinical researcher
  • Forensic scientist
  • Genetic counselor
  • Veterinarian

It’s crucial for students to know that what they’re studying is important for their future careers. This way, they will take these topics more seriously. They will be more focused on learning and mastering the topic.

5. Connect Animal Genetics to Real-World Applications

Animal genetics has a number of important applications in the real world. Dog breeders, for instance, use principles of genetics to breed the perfect pets. Thanks to advancements in genetics, it’s now possible to tell the likelihood of developing certain hereditary conditions even while a child is still unborn. Also, genetics can help treat animal diseases, making the topic useful in agriculture.

Genetics is also useful in law enforcement. Forensic scientists use genetic techniques like gel electrophoresis and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to help convict criminals. Genetic tests have also helped free people who have been wrongly convicted.

Educators can use these real-life examples of animal genetics to spark more interest in the topic. Students can better appreciate this topic if they know how it’s used in real life.

Final thoughts

Animal genetics is a complex topic, but using different teaching tools can help students understand the lessons better. Using games, interactive models, and virtual simulations, animal genetics can become a more attractive topic to students.

Try our free 30-day All Access Educator's Pass today and play the Animal Genetics simulation alongside 300+ other virtual labs!
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